This medieval fantasy book is the third in "The Knights of Arrethtrae" series by Chuck Black and is published by Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart is written for kids ages 10 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Young Sir Dalton has recently joined the Knights of the Prince. He is training at a local haven with Sir Dornan. Sir Dornan doesn't seem interested in disciplining the trainees, which rubs Koen (male) and Carliss (female), who are siblings, the wrong way. The rest of the trainees believe Koen and Carliss are strange, but Dalton doesn't have time to decide what he thinks about them. He is sent on a short mission and is captured by a ruthless Shadow Warrior named Lord Drox. Bruised and battered, he finds himself in a cave-like prison where the cells have no doors. The prisoners' own fears keep them from leaving. Summoning the courage to escape, Dalton is found unconscious by an old hermit, Master Sejus, and brought back to health. Master Sejus trains him in swordsmanship.
Dalton returns to his haven to find that no one will believe his story about the prison, except Koen and Carliss. Knowing he must do something about the prisoners, Dalton travels back to free them. Koen and Carliss follow to help. After a furious battle, during which Dalton defeats Drox, some of the prisoners still refuse to leave. Carliss, who has developed romantic feelings for Dalton, detours to Verlaken on the way home to assist in the rehabilitation of some wounded knights. Days later, Koen, whose father is ill, informs Dalton that Carliss has disappeared. The book ends as Dalton sets out at once to find her.
In this Christian allegory, a haven represents a church, and the knights in training are like young Christians being discipled by older, more mature Christians. Lord Drox and his Shadow Warriors represent Satan's minions. They seek to sow seeds of doubt and attempt to destroy the faith of Followers and Knights of the Prince. The battles in which the Knights of the Prince engage represent the spiritual warfare that believers face.
Sir Dornan is a trainer who doesn't take his role, or his teachings, seriously. He is eventually relieved of his duties. Sir Orland is a trainer who takes his responsibilities very seriously. Master Sejus is a Jesus-type figure. When Dalton first meets him, Sejus is a crippled, old man, but as Dalton's eyes are opened to who Sejus really is, his perception changes, and the mentor transforms into a strong warrior. Lord Drox is malicious and represents evil.
Other Belief Systems
Many battle scenes, primarily sword fights, occur throughout the book. Lord Drox plunges a blade through Dalton. A marauder strikes an innocent woman. An enemy lands two hard blows into Dalton's chest and helmet. Dalton knocks a man off his horse and cuts through the dazed man with his sword. Dalton is stabbed in his shoulder by a sword. Dalton's arm is broken when he's hit by a sword. Dalton slams into a tree with his head. Dalton is attacked by a vicious dog in prison. One of Dalton's fellow prisoners, Si Kon, is attacked by dogs, and he bleeds profusely. Dalton and Drox fight with swords. Ravens attack Dalton, and Carliss kills some with bow and arrow. With his sword, Dalton kills more ravens, and the blood of one splatters Drox. Dalton kills an attacking dog by plunging his sword into it. Dalton plunges his sword through Drox's chest, killing him.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- The Knights of the Prince are trained in swordsmanship. As believers, we grow in maturity by learning the Word of God.
What are the similarities between a sword and the Bible?
How does being familiar with the Bible help you become more effective as a Christian?
- The book shows how important it is for believers to grow in their faith and become more mature after they first become Christians.
What are some things Christians can do to grow in their faith?
What kinds of things have you done to grow in your faith since you became a Christian?
- Master Sejus asks Dalton what's most important to him. At that point in the story, Dalton answers that Lady Bryn is most important to him.
Why is it necessary for believers to know what the most important things in their lives are?
What's the most important thing in your life?
- At first, Dalton thinks Master Sejus is an old man, but after spending an extended period of time with him, Dalton's perception of him changes.
What is your perception of Jesus?
Has your perception changed since you first met Jesus?
- Christians all have a calling in this world.
Do you know what God is calling you to do as a Christian?
How might God equip you to carry out that calling?
If you don’t know your calling, how might you find out what your calling is?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.